In November 2015, the largest bouldering gym in the United States opened in Austin, Texas. With 50,000 square feet the Austin Bouldering Project (or ABP as it’s known by locals) shattered records. And who better to take on the job of head route setter for the massive gym than the former head route setter of their sister gym (Seattle Bouldering Project), Christine Deyo? Deyo started her setting career in Seattle and quickly moved up the ranks to become head setter before being asked to interview for the position in Austin. In Texas, Deyo is one of only 2 female head setters at the 10+ commercial gyms in the state. While a setter is in charge of putting up new routes or boulders each week, a head setter is in charge of overseeing the work of all the setters in the gym and for Christine, this includes a whopping 250 boulders in the gym at any one time, with 2 new sets going up each week.
While the setting community has historically been male dominated, these days more and more women are joining the crew. At ABP Caitlin Kirshbom and Chelsea McLofland also round out the team of 6 full time setters, a nice 50-50 ratio. I sat down to talk with Caitlin and Christine about their experiences. They have a lot of great insight into the plight of the female route-setter and a pretty refreshing viewpoint on gender dynamics in the community, plus some good advice for any setter–no matter your gender.